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The Co-operative Education Directory is a comprehensive listing of the post-secondary co-operative education programs of member institutions in Canada.

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Co-op Best Practices > Preparing for Learning, Preparing for Life

Preparing for Learning, Preparing for Life

posted on March 17, 2008

While preparing this tip sheet, I reviewed many good articles already on the CAFCE web site involving reflection, outcomes, work reports, evaluation, site visits, debriefings & learning. The information there is valuable and has insights and ideas I wish I had ‘got’ when I first began in Co-operative Education. So, I pondered, what can I offer to this array of helpful thoughts and suggestions – what insights do I have that others might find of value.

It often seems that I am caught up in the busy-ness of the job – of finding great new employers, of ensuring students are well supported, of reading Co-op Reports and giving constructive feedback, or arranging and conducting site visits, of planning classes and evaluation strategies, of giving of myself on an ongoing and seemingly relentless basis. Then there are the meetings … department meetings, co-op meetings, planning meetings, academic and assessment meetings. On top of these demands, trying to keep students ‘on track’, pushing & pulling them along the path of learning … some who come willingly and some that seem stuck or less able to grow. Phew, what a job! So, why do I do this?

I realized that, over the past 6 years, I have learned many things about myself and about the learning process. Things I had hoped to learn as well as unanticipated outcomes – much like the students that I have worked with. I, however, have not been as active in my own learning as I expect the students to be. I have not written learning outcomes for myself with evaluation techniques and deadlines, I have not shared these with my supervisor and asked for ideas and support, I have not regularly ‘checked’ in with my hopes to see if I was getting to where I wanted to be, nor have I intentionally reflected in a report or debriefing on my overall achievements and desires. Yet, I have learned. What insights do I have that might be useful for others? How can I contribute to enhancing cooperative education …

I have learned from my:

  • Office neighbour that at least one laugh a day, usually about something we did or did not do, goes a long way to keeping our sense of humour active and our egos in check. We have one way of doing things that works for us, it may or may not work for others (including students).
  • Co-op colleagues that talking with each other is helpful & that sharing openly, eagerly and regularly is never a detriment. Each of them has gems that can be used to enhance the systems and outcomes we ask of the students. That the students they work with are as wonderful as the students I work with and the challenges they face are as similar and different to mine as I could ever imagine.
  • Academic friends that it sometimes takes a long time to get where you hope to be. That patience, vision and serendipity are all things to value and pursue. That taking the time to document outcomes may lead to surprising ends.
  • Supervisor that even when there is hectic uncertainty, time can be filled with gifts of kindness, determination and collaboration. That stress is something we put on ourselves and that keeping the overall goal of student success in mind is really what we all hope for.
  • Students that being naive is not a sign of youthful inadequacy, it is a sign of wonder. That it is my actions and reactions to naïveté that can either help or hinder the students’ experience.
  • Golf group … that practice helps & that one good shot makes us happy and a good game is exciting. Yet, much like with students, in golf we are only as good as the next shot which we may or may not get right. Learn from the shots you want back, celebrate the moments of success and focus on the moments just ahead.
  • My dog … that walking, daily, regardless of the time or weather, is a good thing. It gives us patience and allows us to value of fresh air in our lungs and the warmth of our neighbourhoods. When working in co-op, a good walk helps maintain patience, clear the air and realize the warmth in our work.
  • Friends … that a cup of tea beside the lake while the loons call gives us time to appreciate all we can offer each other. In our work days, offering a cup of tea and giving to / asking for the support of others can help us to reflect and learn.
  • Family … being in the moment, regardless of whom you are with, that the moment you have right now is a gift to be experienced for all it has to offer. We make a difference by being ‘present’ rather than imagining ourselves elsewhere - with our students, colleagues and employers. We learn, we live.

I have also learned that, with regard to students:

  • Some are ‘ready’ & others are not yet ‘ready’. Each needs support in ways that are special to them.
  • STUDENTS are responsible for their actions or inactions … so, if you have done your homework, they can be responsible for theirs.
  • Learning is full of ups and downs … although the ‘ups’ are a lot more fun, it is often the ‘downs’ that teach us our most valuable lessons.
  • The gifts we share with our students and each other … time, interest, insight and empathy … are ones we may never see rewarded. These are life gifts that may take a lifetime to come full circle.
  • Find the joy, each day, in our jobs … we have an opportunity to make a difference.
  • Prepare for a student for learning, prepare a student for life.